Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blog Tour Review: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

From the Back Cover:

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.

The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.

But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.

With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life.

My Thoughts:

When I picked up this book to start reading I was thinking, OK, how exciting can a book about a nun really be? Well the answer is: VERY! I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book was nothing like I was expecting and Joanna Stafford made for a great protagonist. I think that's mainly because she's really not cut out to be a nun, despite her fervent faith, but she hasn't quite figured that out yet. She's educated and she was raised to be a lady of the court, so she's wise in many ways that her fellow sisters are not. She's opinionated, has a take charge attitude, stands up for what she believes in, and has a hard time keeping her mouth shut. Those qualities don't make for a very good nun, but they do make for an excellent heroine!

This is a mystery and the back cover copy does a good job of setting up the story, so I won't risk divulging any spoilers by describing the plot. But I will say that Nancy Bilyeau is an excellent writer.  She really gets into some of the political intricacies of Henry VIII and his advisors, and seamlessly weaves them into a tale of blackmail and the search for a holy relic set amidst the lives of some of the people who have the most to lose from Thomas Cromwell's war against the Catholic Church. The narrative is perfect, the period details are just right, the characters are intriguing, and it really is a well-crafted novel.

But, there are two things that keep me from rating this higher. The story is exciting and takes some good twists and turns, but it also suffers from some very slow periods and I found myself skimming to get back to the action. And, as a hopeless romantic, I was disappointed in some choices Joanna made at the end of the story and I was left feeling a little dissatisfied. So I had to find out if Nancy is writing another Joanna Stafford book, and she is! After the way things played out in The Crown, Joanna should be in for some adventurous times in a dangerous environment and I'm looking forward to the continuation of her story.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

The Crown is on a blog tour and Nancy will be here on the 16th with a Guest Post and a Giveaway!
Click Here to view the rest of the tour schedule.
Visit Nancy's website or find her on Twitter.


  1. Wonderful review, Jenny! I am so glad that you enjoyed The Crown, I also thought it was a fabulous read and am looking forward to more from Nancy! Thanks for hosting the tour!

  2. My sister will be reviewing this one for me. I talked to her yesterday and she told me she's working on the review and that she liked the book a lot. I can't wait to see what she has to say about it.

  3. I can't wait to read this one. It's on my tbr list, and I'm hoping to get to it soon.

  4. I am in the middle of this one right now and I am really enjoying it. I agree with your review, Joanna is a great protagonist.

  5. Ooooh -- can't wait to read this one -- your review has me especially excited! I think I might get this one for my mother, who has some Tudor fatigue but loves intriguing hist fic!

  6. Thanks for this review. I was thinking the same thing - how exciting can a nun be, because the last histfic about a nun was BORING! Glad this one did the trick.

  7. I had also read a mystery a while back featuring a nun and I thought it was pretty boring too, so I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with this one!

  8. Congratulations, Nancy! Your book sounds intriguing, and is going on my list!


I love comments! Getting feedback on my posts makes my day! Thanks for being here!